Nearly 300 people gathered on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday, many calling for the recall of Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven H. David. Justice David authored the recent high court ruling that held individuals don’t have the right to resist police who enter their home, even if those entries are illegal.
The "Stand Up for Your Fourth Amendment Rights" rally began at noon. Attorneys and lawmakers were scattered throughout the crowd as speakers voiced opinion about the recent 3-2 decision from state justices and offered history on the United States and Indiana constitutions. Speakers encouraged those present to get involved in the civic process and be heard.
Dozens of people made signs or banners displaying messages such as “No Police State” and “Don’t Tread On Me.” Others focused on the Fourth Amendment prohibition against illegal search and seizure. Some waved American flags and copies of the U.S. Constitution throughout the rally, and some urged the recall of Justice David.
The ruling in Richard L. Barnes v. State of Indiana, No. 82S05-1007-CR-343, held that a person can use the legal system for redress against unlawful police action rather than resorting to violence in the heat of the moment. Justice David wrote for the majority that included Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan.
Since the ruling was handed down May 12, the Indiana State Bar Association and Indianapolis Bar Association have issued statements encouraging people to react reasonably, while the state Senate and House of Representatives leadership have encouraged the court to rehear the case and issue a more narrow decision. The Indiana attorney general’s office also supports a rehearing. Evansville attorney Erin Berger, who represented Barnes, plans to ask for a rehearing and is prepared to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
Several politicians have said they plan to introduce legislation as soon as possible to overturn this ruling and beef up the state’s self-defense law. Two lawmakers – Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, and Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis – attended the protest but didn’t speak.
More than 1,800 people signed up on Facebook in support of the rally, expressing outrage about the decision, but estimates indicate approximately 300 participated. Indiana State Capitol Police were visible, due in part to threats reportedly received by phone and email at the Indiana Supreme Court.
Organizers urged everyone attending or watching the protest online to peacefully stand up for their rights. Indiana University student and organizer Stephen Skolnick, 19, of Carmel, said he considered the rally a success because it's drawn attention to the ruling. He said he hopes people remember this issue when voting for legislators or deciding whether appellate jurists should be retained on the ballot.
"While we are going to be peaceful," organizer Emily Veno told the crowd, "we are here today to be loud."
Among the speakers was former "Survivor" cast member Rupert Boneham, who lives in Indianapolis and told the crowd that he’s opposed to the ruling in part because it teaches kids that police are the enemy and not helpful.
A political action committee and a Facebook page have been created with the goal of recalling Justice David, who was appointed to the court last fall by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Justice David will face an initial retention vote in 2012. Rally participants were able to sign a petition calling for the justice’s non-retention.
Indianapolis attorney Paul Ogden attended the rally and said he was encouraged by the number of people who came out, though he isn’t sure if it will result in the first-ever recall of a state justice. He does hope for a narrower ruling, since he doesn’t see this broad decision as necessary. Ogden agrees with Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker, who dissented and would have supported a narrower ruling.
Bloomington attorney Karen Wyle said she had hoped to attend the rally, but was unable to despite her opposition to the ruling. A constitutional rights lawyer, Wyle indicated that she was already uneasy about the court’s direction following an earlier ruling allowing no-knock entries even in situations where police failed to prove the need for an existing factual basis for such an entry. Then came Barnes.
“I am dismayed by the paternalism inherent in the court's conclusion that since defending our homes might be dangerous; we should not be allowed to weigh that danger for ourselves,” she wrote in an email to Indiana Lawyer before the rally. “I am angry that at this moment, in Indiana – if I understand the situation – it is a crime for a citizen to defend his or her home against unlawful invasion by agents of the state. I heartily disagree with the notion, underlying this decision that the liberties on which this country is founded have become to some extent anachronistic, and should be asserted only after the fact and through elaborate procedures.”
Supreme Court Public Information Officer Kathryn Dolan said that she didn’t know if any of the justices saw the rally, but that a previously scheduled event prevented some of them from being at the Statehouse for most of the day.